Saturday, August 25, 2012

SyFy Channel - the home of “soft-core” science fiction?

Posted By on Sat, Aug 25, 2012 at 2:28 PM

In Hollywood, the woods are full of people that learned to write, but evidently can’t read. If they could read their stuff, they’d stop writing. - Will Rogers

These days, Tracy and I watch more science fiction on BBC America and Turner Classic Movies than on the Sy FY Channel, which is so quickly becoming a ghost of its former self that no doubt one of its many ghost shows will be soon devoting an hour looking for the spirit of the channel.

Long before science fiction was popularly referred to as sci fi, it was known as SF. These were the days before movies were made about toys and board games, when if you made the mistake of admitting to a fellow classmate that you didn’t quite understand all of 2001: A Space Odyssey, you would get a scornful look, and the reply, “Well, you need to read the book.”

Then, somewhere along the line, SF became “Sci Fi.” Oh, no big deal, you might say, but it was enough to upset many in the science fiction world. I read a wonderful editorial in a science fiction magazine in the 1970s, which likened it all to the days when the term “high fidelity” actually meant something when you bought a music system, and suddenly everything - no matter what the quality - advertised itself as being “hi fi.”

Being a Luddite, I still try to use the term SF whenever I can.

That being said, there has never been an “SF Channel” on television; it was always (until recently) the Sci Fi Channel.

I remember literally lusting after the channel in the days when we didn’t carry it here in Fayetteville. No one gets bored faster than a reader who is forced to endure the stories of what a a writer experienced in the “Olden Days,” but let me tell you, boys and girls, when I was a young lad it was catch as catch can when it came to finding watchable SF on TV.

Which is why so many genuinely bad shows lasted for so many years; we were just so grateful to have anything even remotely resembling SF on TV.

But an entire channel? Well, this was like dying and going to heaven.

When the cable system finally began offering it in Fayetteville, I was overjoyed, but these were the days when science fiction actually made up a majority of the network’s offerings.

In the last few years, a new regime has taken over the controls at the channel, and - well, why not just say the choice of programming has been broadened. Wrestling (okay, only an idiot doesn’t think this is fantasy) was added to the line-up, and for every program of quality - Invisible Man, Battlestar Galactica - you had tons of shows that make the old, infamous Starlost series with Keir Dullea look like Shakespeare.

And reality programming! Everything from neurotic people in contests in movie make-up (a show that might actually be fascinating if it was more about the craft, and less about the whining of the competitors) to seeing ghosts everywhere from houses to everyday household objects.

And we have the glorious movies.

Mansquito being the most infamous of the lot, the network would try to convince the unwary (and the simple-minded) that these are simply a throwback to the matinee movies of the 1950s, but there is a lot more cynicism and contempt for the intelligence for the audience on the part of those who make the movies which turn up on what is now known as the Sy Fy channel.

Oh, yes - the Sy Fy Channel. Because nothing expresses just how you feel about your audience than utterly destroying your brand, and making it seem as though Jethro Bodine is now in charge of programming.

Sort of how the network, Sleuth, dedicated to crime and mystery programming, is now called Cloo.

Just to dive into the River of Digression for a moment - two genres which sort of attracted the “smart kids,” mysteries and science fiction - have now opened their arms and cried out, “Hey, Stupid People of the World! This is your channel! We spell just like you do!”

Okay, drying ourselves off now.

On to the movies.

Alien Apocalypse, Alien Express, Alien Hunter, Alien Lockdown, Alien Siege - just to remind you that there is a little connection with science fiction?

Almighty Thor - just a coincidence it came out at the same time as the Marvel Comics-based big screen version, I am sure

Android Apocalypse

Boa vs. Python

Dinocroc

Dinocroc vs. Supergator

Dinoshark

I expressed an opinion on the website once that about these movies, and was admonished by a fan that Sy Fy was the home of “soft-core science fiction,” and perhaps I was some sort of snob?

Soft-core science fiction?

I have had mixed feelings about the Sy Fy website for some time now. More and more of late, it has pandered to the cretinous, the creepy, the ones who like to look at pictures of the “babes” of science fiction.

You know. In the classic films based on toys and games.

Being one of those sites where many feel that the use of a real name might bring unwanted attention their way, writers often adopt names like Deathstar 12, StarbaseAlpha, or even, in the case of a person who spews venom at any and all liberals unwise enough to express an opinion, “The Truth.”

There is an irony about a person who refers to themselves as The Truth, but is unwilling to use their real name, though I suspect it would be lost on them, especially when you are reading comments that would be perfectly at home on the free republic website.

I think what really upsets me about the Sy Fy Channel is that an unsuspecting person might come in contact with it, and its offerings, and think that this is all that SF has to offer. It would be nice to have a channel run by people who actually respected not only the genre, but the people who enjoy it, and don’t think of them as the cliched figures you see on comedy sketches.

That may be old fashioned view.

******

The Pillars of the Earth

It takes a sure hand to write a good piece of historical fiction, and Ken Follett delivers with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping novel about the building of a cathedral in the 12th Century. Filled to the brim with passion, intrigue, politics, murder, revenge and idealism, it is peopled with characters who are filled with life.
It is the satisfying sort of historical novel that after you read it, you may be tempted to think, if these people didn’t exist, they deserve to. There was a mini-series made of the book several years ago, but I still haven’t caught up with it.

When we think of cathedrals, we tend to think of the massive buildings that we have grown up with, but they only became that way through trial and error.

I think of this book, though, every time I see one of those “documentaries” on the History Channel (isn’t it time they changed their name?) and some “Ancient Astronaut Theorist” prattles on about the ancient pyramids, and how they couldn’t have been built without the aid of alien beings.

Just reading about the birth of the making of the cathedrals, and the brilliance of the men involved makes me shake my head in derision at the ancient astronaut folks.

*****

Second Amendment News:: Revenge shooting near Empire State building leaves two dead, nine wounded

A terminated women’s clothes designer - dressed in a suit - shot a former co-worker in the head on Friday night in New York City.

The shooter, who was laid-off last year due to down-sizing, had traded charges of harassment with the victim. He came out from between two cars and put several bullets in his head.

****

Quote of the Day

He is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. - Frederick Douglass

sdrake@cox.net

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